DRY WINTER (MIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Kyle Davis’s Dry Winter taps into a recent tradition in Australian independent cinema of low-key portraits of outsiders looking for a way in, capturing a spirit of authenticity through the use of non-professional actors. Even further capturing the spirit of true independent filmmaking, this project was far from the product of established industry insiders – Davis, along with the bulk of the film’s crew, are all graduates of Adelaide’s Flinders University. But this is no student film; Dry Winter is a confident, poetic portrait of lost time and treading water in the small-town wastelands of rural Australia.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 23, 2021: PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY

Valerie Taylor started diving with sharks back when, as archival footage reveals, it was considered droll to refer to her as a “mermaid” who was there to support and presumably fawn over the male divers. But based on what we learn of her in Sally Aitken’s entertaining documentary Playing with Sharks, it seems likely that if Taylor ever heard that description, she probably rolled her eyes and left the guys eating her bubbles.

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PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY – Review by Loren King

If underwater photographer, filmmaker and conservationist Valerie May Taylor didn’t exist, the movies would have to invent her. Lucky for us she does, and Sally Aitken’s revelatory and fascinating documentary Playing With Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story gives Taylor, now a spry 85, her well-deserved due.

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PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

If you are in need of inspiration of the fierce, feisty and fearless female kind, you can’t do better than this semi-deep dive into the life of Valerie May Taylor as revealed in the documentary Playing With Sharks. This world-renowned marine conservationist and deep-sea diver is basically in the same league as gorilla protector Dian Fossey and chimp savior Jane Goodall. Only her realm is truly many leagues below the Earth’s surface where her fishy playmates lurk in the form of sharks.

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THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON (SXSW 21) – Review by Leslie Combemale

In Australia, the first laws against domestic abuse were passed in the 1970s. Back in the 1800s, it wasn’t seen as a crime. That’s the era in which Indigenous writer/director/lead actor Leah Purcell’s film The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson takes place. The film takes the Australian romantic myth of frontier freedom and egalitarianism for all, and blows it to smithereens, giving audiences a bleak look into the challenges for indigenous people and women of the time.

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THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON (SXSW 2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

It might be hard to watch The Drover’s Wife and resist the temptation to draw parallels with Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale. Like The Nightingale, the film pivots around the relationship between a man and a woman from very different cultural and social positions based largely on their perceived race. Gendered violence and a revenge also feature heavily, but The Drover’s Wife deviates from The Nightingale significantly if only due to their very different histories, both in terms of their productions and their broader cultural legacies.

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ELLIE & ABBIE (& ELLIE’S DEAD AUNT) (MIFF 2020) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

To call Australian filmmaker Monica Zanetti’s Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) a delight is an understatement. It’s a wholly charming if not at-first seemingly pedestrian coming-of-age queer love story between high school girls in Sydney, but when Ellie’s eponymous “dead aunt” Tara enters the picture, this seemingly light-hearted romantic romp finds its depths.

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